Natural Wines

We at Joli Vin are driven by the desire to drink wines with soul, wines which dig down just a little deeper than their contemporaries to touch something just a little more profound, a little more mysterious and quite a bit more intriguing than the mere obvious or correct. We don’t start from the point of seeking only “certified organic” producers. It just so happens that the producers who make the wines we like to drink are governed by a sustainable spirit and philosophy, whether certified organic, biodynamic or not at all. These are the people whose company we enjoy the most and who share our values in regards to respecting the land around them.

Organic certification is no guarantee for producing exceptional wine. Plenty of medicore wine, or worse, is produced under the organic label. And exceptional wine is produced by those who are not at all certified. Certification is an expensive, administrative heavy process and not all small growers have the time or resources to devote to this process, even if they effectively do the work in accord with the certifying agency’s regulations.

There is currently great interest in wines which are naturally made and the discussion concerning what constitutes a naturally made wine can be as fascinating as it is confusing. We will not attempt in this space to be exhaustive in clarifying all of the differences between the various schools of natural winemaking but several fundamental themes emerge among those who work sustainably:

In the vineyard

  • Systematic plowing in place of chemical treatments.
  • Absence of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizer or any chemical interventions.
  • When they are needed, soil conditioning is in the form of natural composts, manure and cover crops, at the time of replantings in order to replenish the soil.
  • Harvest by human hands, not machines.

In the cellar

  • Indigenous or native yeast fermentations in place of commercial or synthetic inoculations.
  • No chapitalization (sugar additions), acidifications or additives of any kind which alter the natural transformation of naturally occurring sugar into alcohol.
  • Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) is kept to a strict minimum during fermentation and at the time of bottling.
  • Use of naturally occuring Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in place of SO2 at the time of bottling for its anti-oxidant properties.

These practices represent some of the fundamentals within the natural winemaking community but some producers have gone further in adopting practices espoused by the father of Biodynamic farming, Rudolf Steiner, in treating the vineyard as a single component within the context of the larger ecosystem and cosmos which surrounds the farm. Some of these practices include:

  • Biodynamic preparations made from cow manure, silica and medicinal herbs used in the vineyard in the form of sprays and composts.
  • Common cellar practices such as racking and bottling are done in consultation with the lunar calendar when certain phases of the moon favor particular processes.

Not all of the producers we work with adopt all of these practices. Each single practice represents an ideal of sorts, some more commonplace and fundamental than others, and each producer, in accord with his or her own unique situation, beliefs and realities within the context of the vintage at hand, and the flexibility they are afforded by the certification model they have chosen, will make decisions that suit them best.

Those interested for further information can surely find multiple sources of information on-line which will help to provide greater detail. Here are a few links we think might be useful.

Certified Biodynamic (or currently in transition toward certification)

By Demeter
www.demeter-usa.org

Domaine Vincent Gaudry / Sancerre
Domaine de la Tournelle / Jura
Domaine de Sulauze / Provence
Domaine de l’ecu / Loire
Chateau Tour Grise / Anjou/Saumur

Certified Organic (or currently in transition toward certification)

By Ecocert
www.ecocert.com
Domaine Marie Courtin / Champagne
Emmanuel Brochet / Champagne
Domaine Pavelot / Burgundy
Château des Rontets / Burgundy
Julien Sunier / Beaujolais
Domaine Pierre Gonon / Saint Joseph
Sylvain Dittière / Saumur-Champigny
Domaine du Pas de L’Escalette / Terasses du Larzac
Élian Da Ros / Côtes du Marmandais
Domaine Robert Sérol / Côtes Roannaise
Domaine Rimbert / Saint Chinian

Regions

France

Beaujolais
Burgundy
Champagne
Montagne de Reims Emmanuel Brochet Côte des Bars Domaine Marie Courtin Valleé de la Marne Flavien Nowack
Southwest
Côtes du Marmandais Élian Da Ros
Jura
Languedoc
Terrasses du Larzac Domaine du Pas de L’Escalette Saint Chinian Domaine Rimbert
Loire
Provence
Rhône